CTZN's Khan Sisters On Social Justice Through Lip Shades

Founders Of Color Q&A: CTZN's Khan Sisters On Social Justice Told Through Universal Lip Shades

Even Hillary Duff herself is a fan of their brand, CTZN Cosmetics.

Founders Of Color Q&A: CTZN's Khan Sisters On Social Justice Told Through Universal Lip Shades
CTZN Cosmetics

Sisters and CTZN Cosmetics co-founders Aleena, Aleezeh, and Naseeha Khan are simultaneously the most aspirational and relatable people I've ever had the luxury of meeting.

On one hand, I lust after their business-savvy and passion for inclusivity in beauty. On the other, after meeting them in a coffee shop once to learn about their latest launches, I want to ask if they'd adopt me as their fourth sister.

The trio has triple-handedly transformed the landscape of inclusive beauty with their cult-favorite, vegan, cruelty-free brand featuring a range of my personal favorite Nudiversal Lip Duo featuring 25 shades of nude, answering to the mass beauty market's dire lack of "nude" shades — they didn't just change the definition of the word. They made a new one.

Catering to every type of beauty isn't just Aleena, Aleezeh, and Naseeha's promise, it's their pioneering movement.

I know storytelling is a big part of CTZN as a brand. What story do you hope to tell?

Aleena: This is the story of three women of color who understand first-hand the feeling of being underrepresented within an industry we contribute to as customers. This is the story of three co-founders acknowledging that it is not just women of color who are underrepresented within beauty, but also all genders and sexualities and that the industry definition of "inclusivity" needs to be widened by far.

Our mission is simply for everyone interacting with the brand to feel seen and considered; our promise is that each collection we launch will have a shade that caters to every skin tone, or will provide one shade that fits all, backed by extensive product testing.

We're here to educate everyone that nude is not one color, which is why we created 25 nude lip shades, from a warm beige to a fudge brown.

Ideally, this is the story of how CTZN becomes the most authentically inclusive makeup brand in the beauty industry!

What has been your biggest challenge and highlight as business owners?

Naseeha: I would say our biggest challenge has been wearing multiple hats while making sure everything is still held to a high standard! As co-founders of a startup, the one person that is leading our email campaigns may be the same person who also runs the marketing and social media — so when you're balancing multiple departments, it is more challenging to achieve perfection and flawless execution because you simply cannot put all your energy into one lane. You're also accountable at every minute of the day, and cannot afford to switch off at 5 p.m. or on a Saturday!

Aleezeh: I would say our biggest highlight as business owners has been being able to have a platform to make positive change and to highlight what we think is truly important for people to know more about.

Enhancing cultural awareness has been our primary focus (check out our CULTUTORIALs where you learn about someone's culture through a makeup tutorial) but the current events in 2020 have taken that urgency to be vocal on topics that matter to another level.

In the past few weeks, we have focused on allyship for the Black community and crisis appeal in Yemen.

Being a brand owner gives you a real chance to positively influence others through spreading awareness, resources, and information — an engaged audience we would not have had to the same extent without starting this brand.

How much does coming from a marginalized community play into your business?

Naseeha: It has enabled us to conduct business through empathy, due to shared experiences with other ethnic minority groups and heightened awareness on how we have felt in the past in certain work environments.

It has also made us more mindful of ensuring that we have a diverse team of consultants and employees from different backgrounds on board and has made us more passionate about giving leadership roles specifically to women of color.

How do you feel social media and community building have changed the way you do business?

Aleena: It has had a direct influence on our decision-making, in the best way possible! These past few months, we have focused so much more on community building and it has also truly added so much more of a human touch to our brand.

We have gone outside of our comfort zones, showing our personalities to our community, by conducting Instagram Lives and IGTV segments.

So much has also come from encouraging direct dialogue between ourselves and our CTZN family — not only did our community help us choose the COVID-related organization to donate to for May and June, but one Instagram DM from a friendly follower resulted in a dialogue we were able to later share with our followers.

An incredible Black female activist Gayle Alexis DM'd our Instagram account and we ended up having a conversation on the BLM movement. Gayle then agreed to lead a conversation on "How to Be a Great Ally to the Black Community" that I moderated; we shared the recorded Zoom call with our Instagram followers.

We really love involving our community in what we do, whether it is helping us voting on a decision — or even to pass the mic to individuals who can spread knowledge on certain topics!

What advice would you give to your younger selves?

Aleezeh: Don't ever obsess over perfection — that obsession will manifest as an obstacle between yourself and the concept you dream of pursuing.

Mistakes will, unfortunately, happen on the way, so if you believe in yourself and in your idea — make an action plan and do it! See mistakes and failures as learning opportunities.

What can we expect from the future of CTZN?

Aleena: The consistency of every product collection truly being considerate of all skin tones, and for CTZN to continue to operate as a reactive brand — if something happens in the world that critically impacts our community, we will use our platform as an opportunity to discuss it and share knowledge.

Speaking of being reactive — we have a new product coming out very soon that is a direct result of something we are all facing globally at the moment — so stay tuned! Lastly, we will focus a lot more on enhancing cultural awareness through our content. More CULTUTORIALS in 2020!

Rapid Fire

What are your favorite accounts to follow on social media?

Aleena: @i_weigh, @jameelajamil, @mustafathepoet, @v.ri0t, @valentina_poetry

Aleezeh: @rickeythompson, @shaunking, @traceeellisross, @manonmathews

Naseeha: @ubuntubynoreen, @i_weigh, @willsmith, @hannahbronfman, @werenotreallystrangers, @archdigest, @thedailyshow, @shereeneidriss, @beauty_redefined, @arshiamoorjani, @bennydrama7

To what characteristic of yours do you attribute your success?

Aleena: Optimism

Aleezeh: I am very goal-oriented. If there is a task I need to complete, I will do it then and there.

Naseeha: Being a perfectionist. I always want my work to be presented with the highest standards; anything I create is always organized and presented beautifully.

Tell us a book you'd recommend.

Aleena: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

Aleezeh: Malcolm X's Autobiography

Naseeha: Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

What charities do you support?

Aleena: Yemen Crisis Appeal

Aleezeh: Orphans in Need

Naseeha: Chooselove and Help Refugees UK

What is the item in your closet you wear the most?

Aleena: our CTZN merch (our Of the World hoodies are insanely comfortable!)

Aleezeh: My CTZN hoodie (this is not a plug lol)

Naseeha: Workout leggings all day every day!

What is the one skincare product you can't live without?

Aleena: I'm very low maintenance with my skincare — Glossier face wash and rose oil.

Aleezeh: My oil cleanser! I use EPARA Cleansing Oil

Naseeha: My Vitamin C serum

What is on your nightstand?

Aleena: Books and a Diptyque candle — currently Cleo Wade's Heart Talk is on the top of the stack.

Aleezeh: My galaxy lights

Naseeha: A Candle, crystals, journal and the current book I am reading.

Report this Content

-Having struggled with acne prone skin for years, I was cautious to try a new serum on top of the other products I've come to trust.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Your Social Activism May Actually Benefit From A Cleansing Social Media Detox

In the craziest year of our lives, sometimes there's value in taking a break.

We are living through, unequivocally, one of the most dangerous, unstable, chaotic periods of any of our lives. From COVID-19 to crises of police brutality to the mass exploitation of the poor by mega-corporations, the world outside seems to be looking more dystopic every day. What can be done about it? For many, activism involves heavily posting on social media to keep others aware. However, this comes with a net negative cost — increased levels of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness about the state of the world. Why might this be? After all, in past eras activists have endured comparable and greater levels of abuse and relentless torment from oppressors. Why, now, are people getting so easily burnt out?

Keep Reading... Show less

Reading is a relaxing activity that provides many benefits. Everybody reads books (when they are not watching Netflix, chatting on social media, or making Tik Tok videos) to distract themselves from reality for a while. Many do not realize the positive impact that books have like reducing stress, assisting with sleep, improving cognitively, and strengthening the mind. In honor of National Book Day, there are many great novels that you can read to mark this special holiday. Here are the best ones to check out.

Keep Reading... Show less

5 Things You Need To Know Before You Watch 'Arrested Development' On Netflix

"Her?" Yes, she's an amazing show! (You'll get this joke after you watch the show).


"Arrested Development" is an award-winning sitcom that aired for three seasons on Fox beginning in 2003, and then was picked up by Netflix for a fourth season in 2013, and then again for a final season in 2018.

However, it seems to remain one of the world's most underrated and under-appreciated shows of all time. Although this article alone won't be enough to skyrocket the show to Netflix's top 10, I hope that it will open people's eyes to the value and quality of the show.

Keep Reading... Show less

I have always felt left out because of how I look and who I am. I have always felt like the elephant in the room, literally. I have always been shamed for my size. For the longest time, I cared so much about what I wear and who I wore certain things in front of. I never wanted to wear shirts that would show a lot of my arm, located above my elbow. I wouldn't wear shorts that didn't go to the tip of my knees, at least. I never wore anything remotely tight, where you could see every curve, roll, or imperfection. I was so insecure about myself, and not many of my friends knew.

Keep Reading... Show less

Being a pharmacy technician never held as many risks as it does now. Exposure too hazardous conditions were little to none, and garbing up was only conducted in IV compounding. But, now, in order to give nurses the medications they need to help their patients, they need us, pharmacy technicians.

Keep Reading... Show less

I Asked My Boyfriend His Opinion On Liking Other Girls’ Pictures, And, Spoiler Alert, It's Cheating

"When you get into a relationship and you're in love, you have to realize that liking photos is for the single lifestyle."

Ladies, listen up. If you are in a relationship with a guy and he is liking other girls' pictures on social media, then it's a red flag. A man who can look at someone else and show interest by liking it means he doesn't care about your feelings AT ALL.

Keep Reading... Show less

Celebrities Stealing Designs From Small Fashion Labels Is NOT A Good Look, And They Need To Pay Up

When larger, more established figures or brands steal from lesser-known independent creators, they are taking opportunities away from these creators while also profiting from someone else's work and claiming it as their own.

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B recently collaborated on their new single "WAP," with the music video also being released on Friday. Both Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B posted photos of themselves on Instagram to celebrate the premiere of "WAP." An independent designer quickly noticed that the rappers' matching tops were copies of a top she had designed last year.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

When You Have A Disability, Finding A Job Is Twice As Hard, Believe Me, I Know

We have got to create a safer work environment for people with disabilities.

"My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you from doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit as well as physically." – Stephen Hawking

Keep Reading... Show less

7 Books That Are NOT In The Young Adult Genre That Will Change Your Life

Young Adult isn't the only genre that exists, so here are seven books that any book lover wanting to try something new will love.

One of the most popular genres in literature that everyone has read at least one book from is Young Adult fiction. Now, I personally can say that, in the past, I have been one of those people that only read from the YA section of the bookstore.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with just reading one genre, it's good sometimes to venture out of your reading comfort zone into the other book genres of the literary world.

In a previous article, I discussed the importance and power of words. The perfect example of this is literature and its impact on the world. Books have always played a crucial part in human lives, from how we are able to expand our knowledge to how we pass our time.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments